Bestselling Author, latest, One Way Love, (2013)
Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church
Visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary
Contributing editor to Leadership Journal; Sermons are broadcast daily on the radio program Godward Living
Graduated from Columbia International University in Columbia, S.C. and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL
Married to Kim
Three children: Gabe, Nate, and Genna
Tullian Tchividjian: Reveals the Heart of Christianity
Tullian reminds us that the Bible is saturated with the message of one-way love. Perhaps the most famous picture of one-way love in the Bible is the parable of the prodigal son. The father never once welcomes his son back with conditions. He never demands anything of him. In fact, he gives his son the opposite of what he deserves. In real life, bad behavior and poor performance are rarely met with this kind of response. We are more comfortable with conditionality, the two-way relationships in which we love those who treat us well and punish those who hurt us than we are with anything resembling unconditional love. The truth is the parable reflects the human condition. Tullian says, “Once we understand that sin has more to do with what’s on the inside of us than what we do on the outside, we begin to see our own desperate need for grace, whether it takes the form of trying to find freedom and fullness of life by breaking the rules or keeping them.”
RIGHT THINGS/WRONG REASONS
Tullian says discovering the message of God’s one-way love saved his marriage, his relationship with his kids, and his ministry.” When he and Kim were married they were twenty-one and new believers. “We were so hard on each other in those early years,” shares Tullian. As a legalistic young believer, Tullian wrongly felt it was up to him to lay down the law on himself and those around him to avoid the pain and self-destructiveness he had experienced in his life previously. Early in their marriage, he remembers putting some heavy demands on both Kim and himself with regard to their spiritual life. Each night, Tullian would insist on hour-long prayer sessions on bended knee. “I put so much pressure on her. I made her feel like a second-class citizen,” recalls Tullian. He says now they laugh about it but back then it wasn’t so funny. “We were operating out of fear and guilt rather than faith and grace. Those early years turned out to be an extended lesson in what the law can do to a relationship,” he says.
“I grew up believing that the whole goal of being a Christian was to be good, to get better, to progress, to become stronger and stronger, more and more competent…we thank God for saving us, but then we drift from grace to performance,” reveals Tullian. The merger of the two congregations New City and Coral Ridge took place in 2008-2009 and it proved to be a painful experience for Tullian. He learned during this time how much he relied on the idols he was preaching against. “I realized how much I had been depending on what other people thought of me rather than God’s unshakeable love for sinners.” It was such a stressful time he wanted to quit preaching and the ministry. Yet God used this experience to open his eyes to the reality of who he was and who God is.
“When it comes to the raising of children, one-way love is both the easiest thing in the world and the hardest,” shares Tullian. He gives the following example: Recently, one of his sons was caught doing some pretty bad stuff. His unrepentant attitude was driving him and Kim crazy so they took their son’s car keys and his cell phone. Over the next month, his bad behavior continued despite the consequences that were put into effect. One night, after returning from a conference Tullian knew he would have to confront his son again about his behavior. As he prayed about the situation, he felt the Lord was telling him to show grace to his son and give his phone back even though he did not deserve it. With every fiber of his being, Tullian was resistant to such an action. When he got home he talked to his son about how he had asked him to improve his behavior and as a result might get his phone back. He talked to him about life and choices and how much he loved him. Then he told his son to put his shoes on and they would go get a new phone. His son burst into tears and said, “But Dad I don’t deserve a phone.” Tullian looked at his son and said, “God takes me to the phone store ten thousand times a day, and I have never ever deserved one.” Being let off the hook was a powerful reminder that only grace can accomplish what the law demands.
Tullian is one of Billy Graham’s grandchildren. He is the fourth of seven children of Gigi Graham, the eldest daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, and the late Stephen Tchividjian, a Swiss-American psychologist. Although he was raised in a Christian environment Tullian chose to rebel as an adolescent. At 16 years old, he dropped out of high school after being kicked out of many schools, got kicked out of his home (escorted off his parents’ property by the police) and began to pursue worldly pleasure such as promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol. “I was a sinful 16 year old guy living in South Florida and what the world was offering was much more attractive than what the Lord was offering,” recalls Tullian. “Just being from the family of Billy Graham does not exclude you from the same sort of temptations and appetites that anybody else would have as a sinner.” At the age of 21, God turned Tullian around. Slowly, but surely Tullian started to love the things that he hated and hate the things that he loved. “God came to me and conquered me,” says Tullian. He then married, went to college, and then to seminary and ministry. After seminary he served in a large church in Tennessee. Two years later, he received a call from a group of people in South Florida who had started to pray about starting a new church in the Ft. Lauderdale area. In 2003, Tullian and his family moved back home and planted New City Church. Then in March 2009, Tullian became the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Thirty-five years earlier in 1974, Tullian’s grandfather Billy Graham preached the dedication sermon for the new church sanctuary. Billy Graham was 55 years old and Tullian was just 18 months old.
Tullian is often asked how his grandparents, Billy and Ruth Graham, responded to his time of rebellion as a young man. “The truth is, my grandparents never said a word to me about getting my act together. I never picked up a shred of judgment from them. They treated me exactly the opposite of how I deserved to be treated.”
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